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Supporting caregivers through the pandemic


Even before COVID-19 hit our region, unpaid caregivers faced significant challenges supporting those they care for, and themselves, on a daily basis.  

The Canadian Institute for Health Information indicated that one in three caregivers in Canada are distressed, “which can include feelings of anger or depression or the inability to continue with caring activities.” This research also shows that unpaid, distressed caregivers are providing the equivalent care of a full time job: 38 hours per week. And this was before COVID-19 reached our communities. 

But now, in the depths of the pandemic, those challenges have been exacerbated, and have added further burden to thousands of caregivers across Canada and the people who rely on them each day.

We were set to release the Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy in April of 2020 in partnership with the Champlain Community Support Network and the Champlain Dementia Network with a series of events across the region. But, even though COVID-19 pressed pause on our public work, we continued supporting caregivers behind the scenes.

Now, several months later, we are releasing the Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy: our region’s first coordinated approach to supporting informal caregivers – the family members, friends and neighbours who provide regular care to aging seniors in need of support with daily living. 

This report is built upon feedback from local caregivers who responded to surveys and attended community consultations, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews. Their personal experience and perspectives have been foundational to creating the action plan we are recommending in the Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy. 

While the consultations for the development of this strategy were completed before the pandemic, we know that COVID-19 has increased isolation and burnout while decreasing respite opportunities for caregivers. We do not yet know the extent of COVID-19’s impact on caregivers, but we do know that the circumstances are not heartening.

The Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy provides us and the social services sector with a common set of objectives, enabling us to achieve more positive outcomes for our region’s informal caregivers and their families. 

Many in-person programs have had to close their doors to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which leaves many caregivers on the hook for more intense, constant care. We know this is not sustainable. 

The good news is that partners involved with United Way East Ontario’s COVID-19 Community Response Table, the City of Ottawa’s Human Needs Task Force, regional COVID-19 response tables and all levels of government have been collaborating to address these issues.

Since March, existing programs have adapted to new realities and new programs have stepped in to address the gaps. We know our communities have the strength of nimble and adaptable volunteers, partners, frontline agencies and community developers who are working together to rapidly deliver services in our greatest time of need. 

For the Champlain Dementia Network, Champlain Community Support Network and United Way East Ontario, we are committed to adapting to the current environment while addressing the needs of caregivers across our region. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy provides a strong foundation we can build upon to support caregivers and their families now, and over the long term.

While the pandemic delayed the release of this strategy, we have not wavered in taking care of those who need us most. This work is critical, and it does not stop. 




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